It was love at first sight when Sharon Skiffington, of Hawera, New Zealand, met Frederick Foster, a 24-year-old Liverpudlian who had emigrated first to Australia and then to New Zealand. So it was too for Foster. There was a problem, though. The sex with Sharon was so good that he couldn’t face telling her about his wife back in Australia.

But Sharon’s mother was suspicious and when she challenged Foster he mumbled something about a divorce that was still coming through. Sharon promptly ended the relationship.

“I’m almost relieved,” she told a friend. “I was beginning to find his sexual appetite a bit too much for me.”

One afternoon in March 1955, Sharon went into a milk bar and took her drink to a table. Moments later Foster followed her in, bought a glass of orange and sat next to the door. When Sharon got up to leave she had almost reached the door when Foster raised the shotgun he was carrying wrapped in brown paper and shot her through the head.

A commercial traveller standing at the counter grabbed him around the neck, and with his other hand gripped the gun, holding Foster against a wall until two policemen arrived minutes later.

Sharon lay motionless on the floor. An ambulance rushed her to hospital, where she died three and a half hours later.

As detectives began to question Foster he asked for information about the test match between New Zealand and England. How were England doing? What was Len Hutton’s score?

At his Supreme Court trial in Auckland his defence lawyer said Foster had decided to do something “mad” in a bid to recapture Sharon’s love. He intended to fire a gun so close to her that he would be arrested, and when he appeared in court he would reveal his true motive in the hope that it would rekindle her affection for him.

In the witness-box Foster told the jury: “I remembered reading about a pilot in England. His girl wouldn’t have anything to do with him. He flew a plane under a bridge and got pictures in the paper. I thought I could get publicity like that too. I wanted Sharon’s picture in the paper. I thought of firing off the gun to get attention and some pictures. In court I would say, ‘Not guilty – only guilty of being in love.’”

It hadn’t worked out like that, though. As soon as he touched the trigger the gun went off. When he saw Sharon on the floor he thought she had fainted.

Crown prosecutor G.S. Meredith described this defence as “an insult to the intelligence of the jury, a farrago of nonsense.” Foster was “obsessed by sex and thoroughly unscrupulous with women.”

The jury agreed and found him guilty of murder. In the death cell he wrote: “I look forward to the night because then Sharon and I are together. In my dreams we are walking hand in hand to the future. She is as she always was – just Sharon.”

His appendix was removed only days before he was hanged and the wound was still healing when he walked to the gallows on Thursday, July 7th, 1955.

A prison psychologist later revealed that Foster stood petrified on the scaffold, refusing to raise his chin for the rope. A prison officer had to “stick his two fingers in the prisoner’s eyes to force his head back, and boasted about it later.”